I wanted to be a lot of people when I was little: Clarissa Darling, Sam from Now and Then, Mary Anne from The Baby-sitters Club but the character I felt the closest to personality-wise was Vada Sultenfuss from My Girl. I mean, I was pretty convinced with the right wardrobe I could just become her and it totally wouldn’t be a big deal at all. She also had a unique name, which, when your name is Erin, you sometimes get a little jealous of (you also get jealous of people having standard nicknames to choose from, but that’s another story).
I just re-watched My Girl and let me tell you, I started crying from when Thomas J starts getting stung by bees until the very last frame of the movie. Heart. Wrenching.
Also, I don’t know what was going on in the early ’90s, but basically every movie I loved took place in the ’70s and everyone wore awesome clothes, so I think that’s probably why bell bottoms came back and I loved wearing them (much to my mom’s chagrin).
Anyway, here are five ways My Girl (whose anniversary is today!) ruined my life. Don’t even get me started on My Girl 2.
1. Made Me a Hypochondriac
So let’s all remember that I pretty much thought I could be Vada Sultenfuss as a kid. Well, one of her main character traits is always running to the doctor and thinking something is wrong with her.
Her hypochondria comes from her experiences with death on a daily basis, which is a totally valid reaction (I think) when you’re 11. I can’t guarantee mine came only from her but it’s likely she helped. A lot.
The thing is, I don’t enjoy going to the doctor at all. I just like telling people (mostly my mom) that things are wrong with me and that I’m dying from them. I’ve been convinced numerous times that I broke my little toe (there’s nothing they can do about that, really, anyway) and I’m terrified of breaking a rib because my grandmother once told me she used to break her ribs all the time bathing the kids in the tub (scary!). But mostly it would just be something like this:
Erin: Mom, I have weird red marks on my legs! What is this?
Mom: Did you just come out of a hot shower?
Mom: Then it was probably just TOO hot.
And sure enough, the blotches would go away.
Of course, when I was 12 and I fell and was convinced that I broke my elbow because I couldn’t bend it, no one believed me! But who showed who when it started swelling up a week later and I had a HAIRLINE fracture that required a SPLINT?
2. Made Me Even More Terrified of Bees
I mean, I don’t know how you could watch this movie without coming out of it with a horrible fear of bees. I remember getting stung when I was about 4 years old and just crying a lot, so I already had a pretty bad pre-existing fear of bees, but after I saw My Girl I was basically convinced all bees were out to get me.
Then when I was 11, I was doing some yard work for my dad and there were bees nearby. I started getting nervous when I heard them buzzing around, but my dad assured me if I ignored them, they’d ignore me. Of course, they smelled my fear and I inevitably got stung on the lip. While it was happening I was thinking about Thomas J and envisioned the bees engulfing me and dying from the stings. The bee sting was pretty bad and made my already-too-big-for-my-face lips absolutely enormous and unruly but at least I survived.
3. Made Me Want to Live in an RV
This is something that would later be solidified by the premiere of Road Rules but definitely started with My Girl.
Let’s just all agree that Jamie Lee Curtis is pretty awesome and is so cool in this movie. Who doesn’t want a cool lady showing you how to wear make-up and teaching you about your period and assuring you you’re pretty even though the boys at school don’t think so yet? Shelley DeVoto (just AWESOME names in this movie) came into the Sultenfuss household to apply for a make-up job and found out (surprise!) the job is actually at a funeral parlor. No biggie, she takes it anyway and falls into love with Dan Aykroyd.
But the best part of Shelley’s awesome existence is that she lives in an RV!
She has a ton of books in there, a cool cookie jar filled with money and that little side table that they always have in RVs which I desperately want to sit at to look at my map for the road trip I’m clearly on with her.
She even KNOWS it’s cool and invites people in to check it out and explains to Dan Akyroyd that everyone always wants to see the bathroom. (P.S. that’s the one part of this set-up I’m NOT into).
It just always seemed so cool that she ran away from Detroit (and her dirt bag ex-husband) to come work at this kooky funeral parlor in Pennsylvania and just packed up the RV.
That’s the life, am I right?
4. Made Me Want to Be a Tomboy
I would describe Vada Sultenfuss as a tomboy for the most part. Her only friend is Thomas J, the girls from school don’t like hanging out with her and tease her, she pushes Thomas J to the ground, wants to be blood brothers with him and basically teases him for not immediately wanting to sneak out of the house to spy on her dad.
But she was awesome.
So as a result, I assumed awesomeness came from being a tomboy and I was always jealous.
Despite my numerous male friends growing up, I was never a tomboy. I liked dresses, I was terrible at sports and aside from my love of Legos, I don’t think I’d ever be described as being a tomboy. I think more often what ended up happening was I just copied her attitude and her general coolness that came from lines like “I only surround myself with people I find intellectually stimulating” more than anything else. Now I understand that calling someone (or yourself) a tomboy is sort of ridiculous and I have a lot of interests that may be considered more “guy” than “girl” but I wasn’t that enlightened as a kid.
Also, considering one of her major things that I was obsessed with was her mood ring (hello, My Girl 2), maybe the tomboy thing doesn’t really make sense. But I still think she’s categorized as that!
5. Taught Me That My Male BFF Is Probably In Love With Me
I know, I know, “men and women can’t be friends” but I didn’t understand that when I was little, so from the ages of 2 through 5 most of my friends were boys.
I mean, I didn’t think much of it, at day care I played with boys because they played cool games. In our apartment building when I was four I played with the boy next door because he also enjoyed throwing parachute men over the railing into the courtyard and then running down four flights on stairs to get them and do it again. It was just a matter of similar interests. Even with my first female friend in kindergarten, Mallory, I remember a lot of time spent playing with the boys at recess and arguing with them about why we had to play “two Aprils who are best friends” instead of being an actual ninja turtle when they played Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
So it wasn’t until My Girl (and probably not until I was watching it at 9 or 10) that I started thinking, “oh, maybe I have male friends because they LIKE like me.” Thomas J and Vada are complete bffs and do everything together but they also have never kissed anyone and decide to kiss each other and Thomas J even asks Vada to consider him if marrying her teacher (played handsomely by Griffin Dunne) doesn’t work out.
Also, if watching Veep every week doesn’t make you want to revisit My Girl, it should. I highly recommend it as long as you’re prepared to cry. A lot.
(Main picture from here with me added)